I got some blow-back from work (where I've apparently gained many new readers) about some of these posts, so let me make this brief disclaimer: Any similarities or differences I highlight between Russia and the US are just that, differences. I don't mean to imply that one is better than the other, nor to be insulting. I'm just trying to report things as I see them, since most people won't be lucky enough to come here, though I think you all should, it's amazing. I obviously realize that I carry with me a certain point of view, and that our culture is no doubt strange to many others. I think that's pretty obvious when dealing with international travel, but I'm covering my ass here.
Regarding the food, I'm a picky eater, though my wife is pickier. :) I'd have a hard time eating meals that someone selected for me in the States without turning my nose up at things at least twice a day, so much of my culinary displeasure is specific to me, and is a direct result of not actually getting to order my food, even though we're eating in places with menus. That said, my family raises beef and pork, and if I get some bad meat, I'm going to say so, the same as I would about any American place I ate.
And, any frustrations I have with the educational institutions I'm working with need to be put in the context of the funding for these schools. They are not well-funded, and while we say that about our schools in the States on an almost-daily basis, we have no clue what a real lack of funding means when put in the context of these schools. That the staff, faculty, and students persist in spite of these difficulties is a testament to their ability and desire to learn, and it should be commended.
To be fair to my employers, we're just getting into weblogs now, and they're going to need to get comfortable with their employees being able to spout off about their individual points of view without it affecting the "official" stance of the University. Many businesses and institutions have had this same challenge, and many more will in the future. My personal credibility as a blogger prevents me from whitewashing everything, but I aspire to be fair, and to make my biases known, while at the same time being respectful to the institutions that are hosting me, to the University (and the taxpayers) who paid for this trip, to the work I'm supposed to accomplish on it, and the good-will ambassador that I need to be.
Lastly, I rely upon you, the reader, to "fact-check my ass". I can't see the whole country, nor even the whole city, so if I say something stupid, or insulting, or incorrect, or ignorant, you can call me on it, just use the comments button below, that's what it's there for.
Now, since I'm at a bar, it's time to have some vodka, and await the challenges that tomorrow brings.